Pride On Film: The Transformation of Dwayne R. Martin

Photos courtesy of  Dwayne R. Martin

Dwayne R. Martin is far from being a household name but give him a few years and that may all change.  Martin is a freelance 3D designer, filmmaker, and student studying filmmaking at North Carolina State University.   Martin likes to show the beauty of personal sensitive moments in his work, which serve as a reflection on his own life as a shy child. However he opens up with us as he starts to speak of his passion for 3D animation and filmmaking.

Martin has written and produced several 3D and short films which include Maiden Flight, Meta, and Infinite, which has played in numerous film festivals throughout North and South Carolina.  In 2012 Infinite premiered at the FilmSpark Festival.  If Martin had the opportunity to work with any actor in Hollywood, he would choose to work with Will Smith. Martin explained that Smith is a loud actor who’s not afraid to throw himself into any role.  PrideIndex got this shy creative genius to open up. After a few laughs and gentle probing, we got this butterfly to transform into a lion.

PRIDEINDEX (PI): Why did you become a filmmaker?

DWAYNE MARTIN (DM): I first considered making films late in my college life as an undergraduate. While growing up I spent most of my time in the house, making up stories while playing with toys.  I went to college because I liked drawing and wanted to do 2D animation.  When I first started making 2D animations and saw how much drawing it required, I realized that I really did not enjoy it that much. I enjoyed doing it for leisure but not as a full time job, so I decided to give 3D animation a try. After a year I began to really enjoy 3D animation. In my senior year I was required to make a short film (Yang) as my final assignment. It was the first time I actually made a film and I saw how much fun I had with that. It felt very similar to making up stories like I did playing with my toys as a child. From there, it just blossomed.

PI: When and where did you attend school?

DM: It’s a funny story. When I was applying to colleges to go to, one of the colleges was the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). I actually did not hear from them; there was no response, so I ended up going to the Atlanta College of Art.  After my sophomore year, the Atlanta College of Art closed.  After they’d closed, they did not want to just send us all home.  Fortunately, SCAD had just opened up a campus five minutes down the street, so I was able to get transferred over there.  I ended up going to SCAD anyway at a cheaper cost.  Currently, I attend North Carolina State University for their graduate school program.

PI:  Who are some of the people that you consider to be mentors or influences?

DM: I really like Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige). I am blanking out.  (Sighs) [I also like] Darren Aronofsky. [They both do a really good job of showing the strength it takes when stepping into dark situations.]  Darren Aronofsky shows a little bit more of a dark side as far as that goes.  Christopher Nolan does a good job of exploring the mind when it comes to his work.  I enjoy their work as far as watching films go.  I have not translated that into my own films yet. I do like the work that’s being done out of Pixar Films.  I did not like Pixar at first, but as I have grown as a filmmaker and started to venture out and explore, my taste have changed.  I’m afraid to admit that I have just come to appreciate the work behind the Star Wars films too.  (Laughs)  I guess I am sort of a late bloomer in a sense; other folks have grown up with that stuff, but growing up I did not go to the movies much.

PI:  Where are you from?

DM: I was born in Brooklyn, NY but lived on Long Island, NY until I was 8, then I moved to Wilson, NC. We stayed in Wilson for two years before moving to Raleigh, North Carolina when I was in the 6th grade. I have been here in Raleigh ever since, with the exception of going to Atlanta, Georgia as an undergraduate in college.Truly I am from all over. (Laughs)

PI: Where would you like to settle down and end up?
DM:  Being that movies are now my passion and that’s what I am into, I feel my most ideal option is to end up in California.  It would be awesome, but it will also be the most expensive move I have ever done. I had a chance to go to California last summer, and I re-visit again this past summer for a conference.  Just being there for two summers in a row was nice.  It would be awesome to go there and live.

PI: Talk about your filmmaking style and some of the themes you cover in your films.

DM: So far the things I have created have dealt with the idea of telling the quiet person’s story. Growing up, I was the quiet guy in the room, so I like to tell stories from the mind of individuals who don’t say much. It’s a sensitivity that everyone should be able to relate to.

Dwayne R. Martin’s girlfriend dances in his short film META

PI: In one of your short films, you did a story that was largely made up of music and images of your girlfriend.  How did you talk her into it?  Was she initially reluctant?

DM: (Laughs) The film you’re talking about is my short called Meta. The reason I asked her to be in the movie was because I did not have any other talent (actors). I did the film for a classroom assignment. Sure, I knew other people here at college, but everyone was too busy and I did not have much time to shoot.  I had to come up with a story right away.  Knowing what constraints I had for the story, that I had to use artificial lighting and it needed to be at least three minutes long, I drafted the film based on that.  All I had was her.  (Laughs)  She was not reluctant at all; she was very flattered and excited to be the subject of my film.  A lot of the shots for Meta were basically backdrop shots and she was just dancing and waving her arms.  We shot at 4:00 am on a Saturday morning.  It was just odd, but that was the only time I was able to shoot the film.  Scheduling was on a whim, all I had was one weekend, and that was it. It meant that I needed to quickly figure out what to do and how to do it.

The idea behind the film was simple; I wanted to tell the story of a girl opening up to her man.  I called it Meta which was short for metamorphosis.  I found out that the word Meta is a phrase that means something to the affect of referring to you.  I just felt that was an interesting combination of meanings.  Visually, I wanted her to represent a butterfly. At the beginning, I show her wrapped up in her own arms like she’s in a cocoon. The eclipse that we see of her represents her being kind of standoffish to this guy, which was me. And we see some shots of me, being to myself, looking kind of worried and lonely.  Again, it shows her being closed off and not willing to open up. As time progresses throughout the story, we start to her move around and that’s when we see her start dancing. The film moves on to its climax, where she takes off her robe, comes into the bedroom and opens up, and officially opens herself up to me.  That’s the moment when she becomes the butterfly. I wanted to tell the story of something secret that transforms.  My previous films could be absorbed from an exterior point of view.  As a member of the audience, you could kind of sit there and watch it.  Even if you were right there on the set, you would just watch it unfold.  With Meta, I tried to show it from her point of view or an internal view.

PI:  You mentioned that Meta was a butterfly.  If your filmmaking style were an animal, what kind of animal would it be?

DM: (Laughs) That’s an interesting question. Let’s see. (Pauses)  I would definitely say that my style would be a butterfly. A lot of my stuff has a delicate, sincere nature to it. I speak for the quiet people who don’t always like to show themselves.

The butterfly transforms from something that is internal to external and the process of that transformation itself is something beautiful.  If I had to choose an animal that represents myself after I have completed my transformation, I would have to say that I am a lion.  (Laughs)

PI:  How did you change from a butterfly into a lion?

DM: I would say my work is like a butterfly, but it takes a shear amount of determination to make a film. From that angle, I see myself as a lion because I do what’s necessary to get the job  done, and lions tend to sleep around a lot. (Laughs)

PI: (Laughs) You don’t want to get into trouble for implying that you sleep around a lot. She’s going to see this interview and ask you to explain in that high octave voice,” What did you mean by a lion?”

DM: Exactly. (Laughs) I guess I would say that I’m a lion because I consider myself to be a focused individual; I like to plan things out ahead of time as much as I can,  but I know that’s not always possible. For example with Meta, as I was attempting to tell the story, I did not know what shots would really work. I had ideas in my head, not actual storyboards or not even a drawing of each setting with exactly what type of shot was needed. All I had was an idea, a concept of a type of shot, and I figured it out as best I could on filming day. I guess when time is pretty much an issue working against you as a filmmaker and you’re doing everything, you’re writing, you’re editing, and shooting, then you cannot be afraid of anything.  You have to be able to keep it going.

We probably shot Meta in about 30 hours, almost straight. I wasn’t fully awake; my girlfriend was not fully awake.  By the time we finished, she was fully asleep.  In fact, I used some of the shots to show how closed off she was because they just read better that way.  I gave her coffee and talked to her just to keep her awake.  Again, it’s about thinking on your toes and being ready to pounce once you see the opportunity to make stuff happen.  That’s something that a lion possess.

PI: I took a look at your website, and I read that your film Infinite has played in several film festivals.  Tell me about that film. How did that film come about?

DM: Infinite is about a little ball trying to find a place in the world. In the grand scheme of things, he does not realize that he already fits in the universe.  That started as part of a gallery show for one of the classes that I was taking last year.  The Big Gallery show was called ID:ENTITY. The class consisted of all of these films and projects which were all related to the idea about identity.  I made the film under that idea.  I did not think anything of it at the time, but after the show, I realized that I liked the film a lot, and I felt that I could touch it up a little bit and put it out everywhere as a pretty cool film.  I took the entire next semester touching it up.  I got some people to critique it.  Then once it was all done, I submitted it into a festival.  I thought that I would just try because I really did not have much to lose and then it got accepted.  The first festival was the FilmSpark 2012. I was extremely nervous because it was my first festival ever. FilmSpark 2012 was part of SparkCon, a collection of different types of festivals that take place through downtown Raleigh, NC. When I went there, my girlfriend came with me. She has always been a big supporter.   They played my film with all of the other films. When it was done, people clapped, and it was just amazing.  I was extremely nervous because I had no idea what people were going to think, but once they clapped, it was just awesome. And every film festival after that it was the same, it always feels great have people to see your work and applaud.

PI:  What are you working on right now?

DM:  I’m in my last year of graduate school, so now is the time to work on my thesis and thus the madness begins. (Laughs)  Since working on my senior film I have continued to create short films and I want to continue that into my thesis, but in a more complex way. I am interested in the idea of working with nonlinear storytelling, however, with a new take. I am looking to create three separate short films that feature one character who unknowingly affects other characters from one of my other films. The main idea being that the little things you do could affect other people in different ways. Regardless of which order the films are viewed everyone can have the same experience. As far as the stories go, I am still figuring that part out.  I have a couple of ideas that I’m playing around with.  One idea I have is to work on three separate stories within the same film and have them come together from three different points of view.


DM: I think that’s a pretty cool idea, but I don’t want to do it just for the sake of that.  I want it to make sense.  I still have not figured out the content. I guess if I don’t figure it out, then I’ll just do something else. (Laughs)

PI: What is your long term goal?

DM: I want to be part of team that just makes movies. It does not matter if they are shorts or feature length, whether I am the visual effects artist for a big studio in Hollywood or if I work for a smaller studio. It would be not matter to me as long as I can live my ultimate dream.

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